Beyond the perimeter of the orcs
surrounding the elf
and the ranger ran a circle of wolves, darting in between their
master’s legs to get a look at what their next meal might be. As the
orcs spoke to one another in their guttural speech, deciding what to do
next, Aragorn’s fear mounted. He had heard stories, horror stories of
what orcs did to the men and elves that they caught. His near escape
the other night was as close as he had ever wanted to be to them and
yet now he found himself surrounded by them. Wait till his father
heard; he was going to be in trouble even if they did get out of this.
An orc to their left advanced, his scimitar held high. Legolas swiveled, turning towards the orc and readied himself to kill the creature. His whole body tensed and he gripped the knife in his left hand, tightly balancing the perfect blade for a quick throw.
Before Legolas could attack, the air whistled around their heads and the elf forced Aragorn to the ground, covering the ranger with his own body, his hands protectively holding the man's head down as arrows fell around them like deadly rain. "Elves", he whispered the one word into Aragorn’s ear as he laid his cheek against the ranger’s head. The sounds of battle ensued for mere minutes as orcs and wolves screamed in surprise, felled to the ground dead from the wave of elven arrows that cut the air around them.
Silence fell in the small camp. Legolas shifted slightly, slowly raising his head. He gently held the ranger down beneath him as he looked up into the points of a dozen broad arrowheads aimed at him and Aragorn.
"Peace." He slowly straightened up as the elves around him eased off, recognizing the prince. "It is I, Legolas," he addressed the warriors in their own tongue.
Aragorn hadn’t moved. He wasn’t sure he could anyway. His leg hurt too much and he was still dealing with the shock of the whole incident. He listened curiously to the conversation that ensued between the elves and Legolas and was glad for once that no one had noticed him.
"Who is that with you, Lord?" One of the elves finally noticed the man that the elf still held. The fact that the elven prince was in the company of a man surprised the warriors.
Aragorn looked up cautiously at Legolas. The grey eyes were smiling at him with a slight twinkle in them.
"Just a man. A clumsy Dunadan who lost his way." He glanced down at the ranger. "His name is… Strider," he paused for a heartbeat, "because of his haughty gait." The inside joke was lost on the elves.
Aragorn chuckled at the taunt, causing Legolas to smile. It was all the prompting the ranger needed to send him into a fit of laughter. He pushed the elf off of him with a cuff of his hand. "Who was clumsy? I seem to remember being the first one who heard the wolf. Pretty sorry for an elf lord if you ask me."
Legolas tried hard to keep a straight face as he attempted to retain his dignity. With a very serious expression only belied by the laughter in his eyes he calmly replied, "I’m telling your father."
This only sent the young ranger into another fit of laughter. He doubled over, trying to keep his ribs from hurting and catch his breath. The band of elves that had just saved them looked from one to another in confusion, which only heightened Aragorn’s humor at the whole situation.
"Man humor." Legolas shrugged as he looked at the others, trying not to laugh at his new friend. He bent over the ranger and pretended to look to his wound. "We are going to have a lot of explaining to do."
"I’m just glad we’ll have the chance to do so." Aragorn sobered quickly and grabbed Legolas' wrist. The elf prince locked eyes with the ranger, "Thank you, my friend."
Legolas nodded and simply smiled. "Thank you". He emphasized his response, "It is good to know that not all men are as I have known them to be."
The sounds of horses’ hooves on the forest floor caught their attention. In moments one of the steeds had been saddled with a makeshift stretcher.
With help from the hunting party, Legolas eased Aragorn onto the stretcher and the elves started their way back to Mirkwood. The elf prince walked alongside the bier that carried the ranger, keeping him company on their journey home.
"Strider?" Aragorn queried after a few moments.
"Well, I could have come up with something else you know. Something worse," Legolas replied lightly.
"Oh, such as?"
"Striver, one who strives but never attains. Wanderer, one who never finds his destination. Or perhaps one of the richer elven words for arrogant, lost or boastful. You do know them, right?" he teased the wounded man.
"All right, very well. You can have your fun. Strider it is. Thank you for not telling them who I really am. Having you know and be able to hold it over my head is bad enough." He reached his hand out and found it quickly wrapped in the smaller hand of the elf.
"Worry not. Your secret is safe with me." Legolas laughed lightly, "Strider!"
And so it came to be that though named as such in jest, the young Ranger would eventually take up the alias of Strider throughout his older years, in fond memory of his friend and their many adventures together.